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Abstract

We set out to explore some of the impediments which hinder effective communication among fishers, fisheries researchers and managers using detailed ethnographic research amongst commercial handline fishers from two sites- one on the southern Cape coast and the other on the west coast of South Africa. Rather than assuming that the knowledge of fishers and scientists is inherently divergent and incompatible, we discuss an emerging relational approach to working with multiple ways of knowing and suggest that this approach might benefit future collaborative endeavours. Three major themes arising from the ethnographic fieldwork findings are explored: different classifications of species and things; bringing enumerative approaches into dialogue with relational approaches; and the challenge of articulating embodied ways of relating to fish and the sea. Although disconcertments arise when apparently incommensurable approaches are brought into dialogue, we suggest that working with multiple ways of knowing is both productive and indeed necessary in the current South African fisheries research and management contexts. The research findings and discussion on opening dialogue offered in this work suggest a need to rethink contemporary approaches to fisheries research in order to mobilise otherwise stagnant conversations, bringing different ways of knowing into productive conversation.
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Volume 110 | Number 7/8
July/August 2014
South African Journal of Science
http://www.sajs.co.za
Research Article Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
Page 1 of 9
Opening dialogue and fostering collaboration:
Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
We set out to explore some of the impediments which hinder effective communication among fishers,
fisheries researchers and managers using detailed ethnographic research amongst commercial handline
fishers from two sites– one on the southern Cape coast and the other on the west coast of South Africa.
Rather than assuming that the knowledge of fishers and scientists is inherently divergent and incompatible,
we discuss an emerging relational approach to working with multiple ways of knowing and suggest that this
approach might benefit future collaborative endeavours. Three major themes arising from the ethnographic
fieldwork findings are explored: different classifications of species and things; bringing enumerative
approaches into dialogue with relational approaches; and the challenge of articulating embodied ways of
relating to fish and the sea. Although disconcertments arise when apparently incommensurable approaches
are brought into dialogue, we suggest that working with multiple ways of knowing is both productive and
indeed necessary in the current South African fisheries research and management contexts. The research
findings and discussion on opening dialogue offered in this work suggest a need to rethink contemporary
approaches to fisheries research in order to mobilise otherwise stagnant conversations, bringing different
ways of knowing into productive conversation.
Introduction
In 2000, with a stock crisis in the country’s commercial line fisheries looming, South Africa’s government took
steps to mitigate against widespread collapse by adopting a policy of reduced access rights for commercial fishers.
What transpired was a dramatic curtailing of effort in the inshore fisheries, concomitant with the introduction of
the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 (MLRA), which left many fishers without legal rights to carry out their
trade on a commercial level. This disenfranchisement lead to widespread dissatisfaction and often contempt for
the authorities and MLRA amongst many fishers and fishing communities, resulting in both political action and
poaching in a number of instances.
1,2
Today, South Africa’s fisheries continue to face a number of severe and pressing challenges which must be
addressed if progress is to be made in safeguarding marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of those who depend
upon these in various ways. Instead of looking solely at how fishers know, which reiterates their apparent difference
from science, the more productive approach is to try to understand where and how the dialogue runs into difficulty.
We by no means make any claim to resolving all the difficulties that attend collaborative work among managers,
fishers and researchers. Rather we explore some of the instances in which difficulties arise and present some
possibilities with which to begin to move forward conversations which have in many cases become stagnant.
As such, our intention in this paper is to introduce a theoretical foundation which poses significant practical
applications, whilst highlighting its relevance through ethnographic examples. The conceptual framework and
associated tools which we employ begin with the idea that the ways in which people engage the world are based
on interactive relationships with humans and non-humans alike. The strength of this approach lies in being open
to working with multiple ways of knowing without assuming that one represents complete truth while another is
complete falsehood.
It is our contention that what is required is a shift in focus away from traditional ‘top-down’ management structures,
in which local perspectives are generally not taken into account, towards an understanding of the extent to which
social and ecological changes are mutually contingent.
3,4
In their 2007 work, the Canadian Coasts Under Stress
(CUS) team recognised that ‘the fundamental problem is an inadequate understanding of the highly complex links
between social and environmental restructuring and how they interact with the health of people and places’
3
. Sutton
Lutz and Neis
4
suggested that ‘disciplinary boundaries (between social, natural, humanist and health researchers)
have tended to mask interactions between these realms…’ often with unfortunate and unforeseeable consequences.
In answer to this dilemma, following Sutton Lutz and Neis, ‘a key point of departure for CUS research…is the
assumption that exploring these interactions requires cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries’
4
.
The social-ecological approach adopted by CUS suggests that it was necessary to create a third space in which
different knowledge positions might be brought into conversation and worked with productively. In a bid to facilitate
the creation of this third space, the CUS team perceived different ways of knowing and disciplines as bounded but
simultaneously called for the recognition of heterogeneity and overlap as a means of bringing different ways of
knowing into conversation.
4
The upshot of this outlook was the call for researchers to work across categories of
knowledge. However, whilst such an approach began to open up the possibilities for collaborative research, it still
implicitly relied upon and thus maintained categorical distinctions between knowledge groups such as scientists
and fishers.
4-8
The contribution offered by our approach, by contrast, is an effort to move to recognise and work
symmetrically with multiple ways of knowing the world, seeking the convergences and overlaps but also finding
means of acknowledging and working with difference and divergence in productive ways.
9-12
As a point of departure,
we begin with the assumption that knowledge boundaries are arbitrarily maintained and can be dissolved. We
argue that different knowledges exist but these different ways of coming to know are not necessarily tied to,
nor emerge from, specific disciplines or identities and rather are patterned on interactions between beings. Our
AUTHORS:
Greg L. Duggan
1,2
Jennifer J.M. Rogerson
1,2
Lesley J.F. Green
3
Astrid Jarre
1
AFFILIATIONS:
1
Marine Research Institute
(Ma-Re), University of Cape
Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2
School of African and Gender
Studies, Anthropology and
Linguistics, Anthropology
Section, University of Cape
Town, Cape Town, South Africa
3
Environmental Humanities
Initiative, School of African and
Gender Studies, Anthropology
and Linguistics, University
of Cape Town, Cape Town,
South Africa
CORRESPONDENCE TO:
Greg Duggan
EMAIL:
greguct@gmail.com
POSTAL ADDRESS:
Marine Research Institute
(Ma-Re), University of
Cape Town, Private Bag X2,
Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
DATES:
Received: 29 Apr. 2013
Revised: 18 Oct. 2013
Accepted: 17 Dec. 2013
KEYWORDS:
ethnographic research;
facilitating dialogue; fishers’
knowledge; artful deletions;
relational approach
HOW TO CITE:
Duggan GL, Rogerson JJM,
Green LJF, Jarre A. Opening
dialogue and fostering
collaboration: Different ways of
knowing in fisheries research.
S Afr J Sci. 2014;110(7/8),
Art. #2013-0128, 9 pages.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/
sajs.2014/20130128
© 2014. The Authors.
Published under a Creative
Commons Attribution Licence.
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Volume 110 | Number 7/8
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Research Article Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
Page 2 of 9
work, therefore, attempts to move beyond the restrictions of disciplinary
and epistemological categories by working with individual knowledges
rather than notions of bounded bodies of knowledge. Note that the
term ‘knowledges’ is used to suggest that there is not a singular and
universal way of producing knowledge about the world, but that there
are ways of knowing the world which lie outside of the formal disciplines
which people use and find effective. These may include practical and
embodied knowledges, as well as different ways of thinking about the
major ontological structures that frame modernist knowledge.
9,13
The
focus of this kind of work is on the convergences and overlaps which
exist. Where divergences do arise, these too may also be worked with
productively, as discussed later in the text.
Building on the CUS approach, we take the view that productive dialogue
with the knowledges of fishers is both possible and necessary.
3,4,14,15
There are several reasons for this view. The work of Van Zyl
1
and Schultz
2
on South Africa’s east and west coasts, respectively, has illustrated that
people excluded from conservation and management decisions resort to
poaching, not only out of necessity but also as an act of demonstrating
disagreement with management. Target-resource oriented management
and traditional ‘top-down’ approaches to management have to date not
been especially effective in ameliorating fisheries crises.
16-18
Additionally,
with the mandated implementation of an ecosystems approach to
fisheries (EAF) in South Africa in terms of international agreements,
there is pressure on government to implement a more inclusive means
of managing our fisheries and to allow for debate around knowledge.
19-21
There is also a need to rethink the state-science-public nexus in terms of
which conservation policy in South Africa is increasingly implemented
via control rather than cooperation.
1,2,11
The lack of effective dialogue
between fishers and scientists – even though many scientists themselves
are fishers and make the effort to communicate their work to fishers – is
often framed as a problem of ‘indigenous knowledge’. We believe that
such an approach severely limits dialogue,
11,12
as making knowledge
debates contingent upon socio-cultural identity renders them unavailable
to critique or rethinking, with the consequence that they come to occupy
seemingly intractable positions.
9
The work presented here is part of a
larger project that reframes the possibilities for scholarly dialogue across
different ways of knowing the sea and its creatures, and takes as its
focus the ways in which people come to know the world. As such, we
argue that the shift to research on dialogue creation between fishers and
the sciences, is vital both in implementing an EAF in South Africa and in
beginning to address the problems which face the country’s fisheries.
Project background
We draw on initial findings and fieldwork from an extensive
interdisciplinary research project which has been running for the past 4
years. A collaborative undertaking between the University of Cape Town’s
(UCT) Marine Research Institute (Ma-Re) and Anthropology, the project
seeks to rethink the complexity and interface of multiple knowledges and
ways of knowing in selected fisheries on the west and southern Cape
coasts of South Africa as well as in Namibia’s hake fisheries.
Over the past two decades, growing evidence of stock collapses and
associated failures of centralised, quantitatively managed fisheries in
many parts of the world have led to a number of calls for alternative
approaches to fisheries management which address the concerns of
biophysical ecosystems as well as human well-being.
3,22-25
Recently,
a growing body of research has begun to suggest that working with
the knowledge of fishers within the fisheries management context
offers the possibility of augmenting scientific knowledge by contributing
locally grounded, experiential understandings and strategies for dealing
with the variability of fish and climate.
3,24-29
In 1992, the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) was formulated to address growing concerns
surrounding the preservation and safeguarding of the earth’s natural
resources. Central to the CBD was a commitment that contracting
states ‘respect, preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and
practices of indigenous and local communities’
30
. In terms of fisheries
management, the guidelines outlined in the CBD laid the foundations
for a significant shift away from established ‘top-down’ management
paradigms, which ignored local people and their concerns, towards
more inclusive approaches which worked with local people and
ecologies.
20,30,31
One of the more prominent approaches to fisheries
management which emerged from the guidelines of the CBD was the
EAF.
21,32
A somewhat radical departure from established norms of
fisheries management, an EAF adheres to a number of core premises
which directly challenge conventional top-down management structures.
One of its guiding principles is a focus on working with complex
interlinked social-ecological systems. In 2002, at the Johannesburg
World Summit for Sustainable Development, South Africa committed
to the implementation of an EAF by 2010, which compels fisheries
management to work in dialogue with fishers. However, this EAF has
been slow in coming.
33
In 2010, amid growing concerns surrounding climate change
and variability; the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit mandate;
perceived shortcomings in the MLRA; and the failure of top-down
stock assessment-based management protocols to adequately work
with people and marine resources, Ma-Re (UCT) initiated the ‘Marine
Research in the Benguela and Agulhas Systems for supporting
Interdisciplinary Climate-Change Science’(BASICS) project. The project
is interdisciplinary in nature and receives considerable support through
the South African Research Chair in Marine Ecology and Fisheries.
BASICS seeks to challenge the conventional management approach by
explicitly investigating an EAF through social-ecological research and
collaboration with fishers. The BASICS project incorporates perspectives
from industry, government, fisheries management and academia as well
as physical and ecological modelling across a range of scales and case
studies working with fishers from within the Benguela ecosystem.
34
The
objective of this multi-sited, multi-scalar, interdisciplinary project is to
provide understanding of the impacts of climate variability as well as to
predict future outcomes at various levels including marine ecosystems,
individual species and human coastal communities.
34
The Fishers’ Knowledge Project (2010–2012) is a collaborative
interdisciplinary and multi-sited research project conceptualised across
a range of research partnerships, including the SeaChange programme
of the South African National Research Foundation, UCT Sawyer
Seminar’s Contested Ecologies Project and UCT’s Africa Knowledges
Project as part of the larger Programme for the Enhancement of Research
Capacity. Seeking to bring the objectives of Ma-Re BASICS, the Fishers’
Knowledge Project and the Contested Ecologies Project together, Astrid
Jarre (Ma-Re) and Lesley Green (Anthropology) co-supervised several
Anthropology dissertations which focus on fishers’ knowledge in a
range of fisheries along the Benguela current ecosystem coastline of
South Africa.
Methodology
Drawing on ethnographic participant observation methodology, the
research presented here took place in two separate field sites over
extended periods.
11,12,35
All research was conducted after receiving
appropriate ethical clearance. Participant observation entailed
researchers spending prolonged periods of time in the given field site and
at sea with local fishers, with a focus on the collection of empirical data.
Placing emphasis on extended fieldwork and engaging with local people
while they went about their daily activities enabled the development
of rapport and the building of relationships of trust, providing insight
into the local context and people’s ways of understanding and being in
the world. The ethnographic examples presented in this paper refer to
the work of Rogerson
11
and Duggan
12
. Duggan’s
12
field research was
conducted in the small commercial handline fishery in the southern Cape
town of Stilbaai over a 7-month period; Duggan conducted participant
observation, that is, spending time with fishers at work, both at sea and
on land. The research revealed a complex set of interactions between
fishers and fish in which fishers knew fish as intelligent, reactive beings
and sought to balance a range of objectives including ecological,
economic and ethical concerns via a suite of strategies aimed to cope
with variability in the fishery at all levels. Over a 3-month period, also
drawing on participant observation methodology, Rogerson’s
11
work in
Lamberts Bay focused on the embodied ways in which fishers come to
know the sea. In her work, Rogerson suggested that the conservation
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science which informs state-regulated fisheries policies such as the
MLRA has served to exclude fishers from debates about the management
of the marine environments they have fished for generations. Rogerson’s
study found that the fishers with whom she worked interacted with and
related to fish and seals as knowing subjects rather than simple objects
for capture.
In analysing the ethnographic data, our approach was grounded in
that described by Lien and Law
36
as a relational ontology.
37
Whereas
a cultural ontology rests upon the notion that different views of the
world arise from social identity (such as ethnicity, race or region), a
relational ontology concerns itself with the ways in which knowledge
producers attend to specific objects and relationships in the world, and,
in foregrounding them, bring them into being as matters worth attending
to in scholarship and in political life.
36-38
The fishers with whom we
worked were of varying ages and levels of experience. Stilbaai fishers
Oom (‘uncle’, used as a form of respect) Louis and Oom Koos, for
example, had between them nearly 65 years of experience on the sea
in commercial fishing. Many of their peers had spent over 40 years
as commercial fishermen working in a range of fisheries (commercial
handline, commercial trawl and west coast rock lobster) in the Benguela
and Agulhas ecosystems. A commonality shared by all of the people in
the ethnographic conversations which follow is a self-identification as
commercial fishers.
Research findings
The identification and classification of species and sub-species, the
process of enumerating fish, and different ways of relating to fish
and the sea are prominent themes which recur in both Rogerson’s
11
and Duggan’s
12
research. These themes represent nodes or moments
around which convergence and divergence often take place in fisheries
research and management and, as such, the interactions through which
they come about warrant further exploration.
Species, classifications and ‘artful deletions’
During any process of research, data are collected and recorded. The
collection of data happens through equipment and different processes
along the way. Streamlining, evaluating and interpreting data culminates
in a written report. Through this process, certain elements of the original
data set are emphasised whilst others are eliminated or underplayed
in the final version. In what follows, we refer to these processes of
streamlining as ‘artful deletion’ and suggest, following Law
38
, that it is
a practice which takes place in the formation and representation of all
knowledge. ‘Artful deletions’ are achieved through the use of ‘inscription
devices’ which include ‘any item or apparatus or particular configuration
of such items which can transform a material substance into a figure or
a diagram which is directly useable’
38
. The value of inscription devices
lies in their ability to direct focus onto the final, smoothed and simplified
product, away from the complex interactions, material processes and
practices which go into creating it. We begin by exploring this point via
a discussion of the ways in which different worldviews result in different
classifications of the same fish: kob (Argyrosomus inodorus) – known
locally as the Silver kob or kabeljou, a highly prized commercially targeted
species upon which the inshore handline fisheries of the southern Cape
are deeply dependent.
In a weighty tome released in 2001 by the Department of Environmental
Affairs and Tourism entitled the Coastcare Factsheet Series,
39
a group
of government scientists and marine specialists set out to document,
for public dissemination, elements of South Africa’s marine ecosystems
and coastline which were considered important. Included in the
factsheet is an introduction to various common species, including a
number of fish. In the third section, entitled ‘Coastal and Marine
Life – Animals: Vertebrates – Fishes’, is a subsection dedicated over
two pages to ‘kob’. A single colour picture of a Snapper kob is shown at
the bottom of the page. The description starts with an account of how
many species of kob are found on the South African coastline (‘about
nine’) and continues with a description of what kob is: under different
headings such as ‘Breeding Habits’, ‘Feeding Habits’, ‘Life Cycle’ and
‘Commercial Importance’, the reader is presented with a neat, uniform
version of kob – what can be expected of it, where to find it and how it
operates in its environment. The account describes all kob as having ‘a
coppery sheen…fairly robust with an elongated body and a rounded tail
fin’ and that ‘various kob species are superficially very similar, making it
difficult for non-scientists to distinguish between them’.
We turn now to an ethnographic account concerning kob, taken from
Duggan’s
12
work amongst commercial handline fishers in Stilbaai:
Various boats, motors, trailers, tow-vehicles and
a small freezer truck stood parked around the
front and back of the house in various states of
repair. The lounge served as an entrance to the
home and I knocked on the door announcing
my arrival. Oom Koos turned round in his seated
position at his desk, and, beaming at me over
his glasses extended a massive calloused hand
to envelope mine in a rm, friendly handshake.
As he gestured to a couch and told me to sit,
Oom Koos informed me that he had invited his
friend and fellow skipper Oom Louis to join our
conversation. I was here to talk about the kob and
both Oom Koos and Oom Louis were happy to do
so. The discussion below picks up approximately
twenty minutes into our conversation:
Greg Duggan [GD]: How many types of kob
are there?
Oom Koos [OK]: There’s about three, four…ve!
GD: That you catch here?
OK: Ja [yes], that you catch here, that is different
from each other.
Oom Louis [OL]: There’s seven different species
of kob. The only one that you don’t get here
denitely is the Snapper salmon that you get
in Durban.
OK: But we catch the square-tail also here!
GD: The main ones I know of are the Dusky, the
mini-kob, the Square tail and the Silver…
OK: Ja, but the Silver kob, neh, the Silver kob
there’s more subspecies of Silver kob – there’s not
only one. There’s one with the long tail, the one
with the funny ns I showed the researchers
the other day what the difference is there’s a
seven kilo sh, his tail is like that (broad), there’s
the other seven kilo sh and his tail is like that
(thin, at) – there’s a hell of a difference between
the ns it’s a different species... And then
there’s one of the sh where his head is small,
and his body is fat –
OL: and then the other one with that
rounded nose –
OK: ja, his top of his mouth is shorter than the
bottom of his mouth.
OL: Now they, if you look when the one’s got
a thick tail and the other a thinner tail, for the
same size sh, they will, for the fun of it not
the fun, to get the knowledge they will open
both, see whether it’s male, whether it’s
female and you do get females with different
bodies, males with different bodies. So it’s
denitely different species.
Research Article Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
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GD: But are you catching them all together?
OK & OL: Together ja, together!
OK: But some times of the year, that short sh
OL: – the thick one –
OK: the thick one, yes, is at a certain time of
the year, I think it's September, October, we
catch plenty, plenty, plenty of it.
OL: You know where you get that is in Namibia
as well.
OK: Really?
OL: It’s different!
OK: Scientists don’t class it differently but
it’s different.
OL: Ja but to me it’s still a kob and a kob is a kob
ou broer [‘old brother’].
OK: [laughing] But we as shermen see that as
another species we know it’s another species
and it’s ghting more than the other species of
kob when it’s on the line. That shorter sh is
much stronger, much, much stronger than the
other kobs. Much, much, much, much stronger!
And I show that to Lloyd the other day, I said
‘look here, can you see the difference?’ and he
said yes, he can see the difference…but when
you get to the harbour, neh, the inspector doesn’t
want to know it and the factory guy, he doesn’t
care either. You have a kob and for them it is a
Silver kob and that is so.
OL: Ja, he doesn’t care because he gets his same
price. Look if he turned around and said it was
something else –
OK: – or if we said it was something else
OL: – ja, if we said it was something else, we and
him would get a different price. And probably not
a better one, you understand? So we must look
and speak about it to each other and leave it
at that.
OK: But that factory guy, he knows it’s different,
he sees it every day – a different shaped sh
that’s not a Dusky but that he sells as a Silver but
clearly isn’t a Silver.
What emerges from these two accounts are two knowledge claims
about kob, which at times contradict one another. Two networks of
actors
40
narrate their knowledge and research in the same environment
featuring the same actor – kob. Yet their descriptions clearly reference
two different versions of kob and ways of identifying and knowing the
fish. In the knowledge claims of official state science, kob is a clearly
defined, universalised fact which, whilst knowable to scientists, is
‘difficult for non-scientists to distinguish’
39
. The narrative of the factsheet
suggests that the version of kob presented therein is universally true
for all kob, and is the only possible way of identifying and knowing
kob. In Oom Koos’ and Oom Louis’ version of the fish, the definition
is not as clear. While the two fishers identify officially recognised and
classified species such as ‘Silver kob’, and ‘Snapper salmon’, they
also talk about the existence of ‘another species’ or subspecies. Their
descriptions, rather than being about a singular, authorised version of
kob, speak of heterogeneity, complexity and multiplicity. Rather than
being universalised and removed from context, their narrative speaks
of identifying the fish through interaction when they are fighting the line.
In other words, the fishers’ way of knowing kob is mediated through
interactions which change with context and time.
The process of enumeration
In the same way that fish are classified via the Linnaean system into
a hierarchy of kingdoms, classes, orders, genera and species in
descending order of specificity, a similar effect results from the process
of enumeration in which relations and beings are represented as
numbers for various purposes.
36-42
In the ethnography below, taken from
Duggan’s
12
fieldwork, an ‘artful deletion’ results:
Returning to the harbour with Oom Koos, we
have made a good haul of kob, slightly over
800 kilograms by his estimate. Arriving at the
quayside, we winch the boat up onto the trailer
and tow her over to the Viking Fishing factory
where the buyer, Willie, is waiting next to the
scales. As the crew begin ofoading the bakke
[large, hard plastic bins used to store the sh
at sea and transport them on the quayside]
of sh, the process begins: at sea, Oom Koos
had shown me some of the characteristics of
different subspecies of Silver kob the different
n, tail, head and body types. Opening some of
them up, he showed me that these were both
males and females and that there were indeed
distinct differences between the subspecies, even
though they swam together. Now, however,
as Willie draws closer and the sh come to
the scale, the different species of kob we had
identied at sea quickly and seamlessly became
one – Silver kob. It is a game, a performance
for one another by sher and buyer. As every
sh is taken from the boat a length and weight
measure are taken. Nothing else seems to matter.
Individual characteristics are unimportant in
fact I get the sense that Oom Koos would rather
not discuss these while Willie is around. The
different individuals are thus transformed in a
moment, becoming numbers. Then, once all of
their number had been tallied, they became a
single whole the catch for the day, represented
in kilograms and currency and later to be lled
in on the log sheet which Oom Koos will submit
to MCM/DAFF [Marine and Coastal Management/
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries]
at year end.
Upon arriving at the quayside and pulling the boat out of the water, Oom
Koos now related to kob differently, seeing them no longer as interesting
individuals but as numbers. It was a relationship into which Oom Koos
entered tacitly with Willie in which both agreed to a description of Silver
kob in line with a Linnaean classification of what kob is. On the boat,
Oom Koos had been quick to point out differences in subspecies of kob
but outside the factory an altogether different account of nature again
took place in Oom Koos’s interaction with Willie. Now, Oom Koos’s
enactment and knowledge claim about the fish shifted: in order to sell
the fish to the factory the multiple subspecies of kob were referred to by
one name –Silver kob – thus becoming and becoming recognised as a
unified entity. This shift was characterised by a seeming detachment
from the fish, which were being thrown from the boat into waiting plastic
bakke. The individual characteristics that had mattered at sea were
no longer important in the relationship. Willie’s compliance with this
enactment of Silver kob was also important in securing a price for the
catch and together the fisher and the buyer engaged in a process of
transforming fish into figures. In so doing, the complexities observed
at sea – the individual subjective characteristics such as nose, tail
and body shape – were now of no importance, smoothed over and
translated into object via number, an artful deletion of characteristics
Research Article Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
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which transformed the fish. Later that evening while writing up the day’s
experience Duggan
12
noted:
Perhaps it was just my perception of them or
the sun and water reecting off of their skin, but
when we were at sea the kob, although dead, had
still seemed lively. Now they appeared grey and
waxen, bereft of their individual characteristics,
ung unceremoniously as objects through the
air. Suddenly they were lifeless numbers…one…
two…thirty…forty ve. I could almost see the sh
being transformed from subjects as they were
tossed off the boat and landed with a dull wet
thud as an object in the bakke.
In effect, the process of creating a number from fish represented a change
in the relationship between fisher and fish and the latter’s transition,
entering into new relationships with other sets of actors. In this way,
the end of the fish’s interactions with fishers and their translation into
numbers marks an entry into new networks in which they are further
enacted. The numbers generated in the fishery enter into networks of
resale, consumption, research and management, moving through
processes which work with and shape them into accounts of reality. Lien
and Law
36
argue that ‘the inscription of a number in a notebook serves
as a first point of making them real’. In other words, where management,
research or the sale of fish are concerned, the creation of a number is
a means of quantifying the existence of a thing. The day’s total catch
weight would be added to the month total for kob which in turn would
be written down by Oom Koos on his catch log sheet and submitted
to DAFF at the end of the year. At this point it would serve a range of
purposes within DAFF research and management as well as informing
future regulation of the country’s commercial fisheries. The individuality
and conditions of each fish and its capture are omitted at this stage.
There is no space available to talk about different species or subspecies,
water conditions, location, wind, currents, bait or fish behaviour. The
log sheet simplifies and expedites data capture, severing ties between
fishers and fish and the time–space in which they interacted. Only the
month’s total catch of the fish type is entered in each corresponding
column and row. In this way, the messiness of the story of the catch is
transformed, and the fish become universalised, represented by a series
of digits. The complex, multiple, dynamic, unpredictable, sought after
are, through this simple process of enumeration, rendered knowable,
quantified, simple, predictable, singular, ready for entry into a stock
assessment model or levy accounting sheet for next season’s licensing
purposes. It is in the moment of translation that the object of attention,
although ostensibly the same being (a physical biological organism),
can be very different and known as different ‘things’ dependent upon the
perspective of the knower. Multiple versions of itself are simultaneously
brought about, depending on who is interacting with it and the context in
which these interactions take place.
Relational interactions among fishers, fish and sea
After a brief examination of the ways in which living beings are rendered
as numbers through networks and processes of inscription and
enumeration, we turn now to the ways in which particular relationships
and ways of knowing fish and the sea make certain versions of
reality possible. The question of embodied knowledge and relational
engagements with the sea and sea creatures is an important one in
the context of fisheries research and management, particularly where
collaborative efforts are concerned. In the South African context, the
objectives of conservation science are often perceived by fishers as
not readily compatible with their own needs.
1
As such, many fishers
reject conservation arguments and policies on grounds of knowing the
sea and fish very differently from what is presented to them in official
science and management.
1
To this end, the ethnography below, taken
from Rogerson’s
11
thesis, provides insight into some fishers’ ways of
understanding the sea and sea creatures, and highlights what we refer to
as a relational way of knowing.
For many of the people working in Lamberts Bay, while they did not see
the sea or the fish there as persons, they seemed to share a relationship
with them that was more than one of fisher and catch. Willem, a local
handline and west coast rock lobster fisher, spoke of how they needed to
go out to sea with positive attitudes and with a smile on their faces or else
fishing would not be successful because, according to Willem, the sea,
fish and lobster could sense moods and act accordingly. In particular,
the sea was understood by the fisher as a living being: a source of life
and nurture as well as dread and harm. It became confusing at times
because one person would be talking about how the sea gave him so
much trouble and a minute later another would be talking of how much
she loved the sea and how she felt free there. After some months, no
longer a complete outsider, these apparent contradictions began to
appear complementary to me. As Willem put it, ‘sometimes the sea will
give you so you can save, on other days nothing, so you can come back
on those days that you have saved for’.
The sea in this example was a provider to Willem, generous on some
days, miserly on others. The sea was bountiful but it did not allow
fishers to have excess fish, meaning planning ahead and saving money
were always necessary strategies. Often when we spoke, Willem’s
face became animated and excited when he spoke of the sea and how
it works with him. Willem and Hennie spoke of their relationship with
the sea:
Willem [W]: It’s like the sea is in love with us
because before he will take you he will warn
you and then if you are reckless, careless then
something will happen to you, but at least he has
warned you.
Jennifer Rogerson [JR]: The sea almost gives you
a chance.
W: Yeah.
Hennie [H]: I’ll share a personal experience
of where the sea, he warned me. One day we
were working close to Muisbosskerm, south
of Lamberts Bay. There are lots of reefs and we
work, putting a set of nets there. There is a wave
coming but it’s not breaking, it’s coming and
we could see. I told my bakkie [a small wooden
rowing boat typical of the West Coast traditional
handline sheries] mate that we have to leave and
we leave. At that time another bakkie came and
that morning they smoked something, you could
see. I went to them and I warned them, I said
guys we’ve just been out there and we see the sea
is standing up so I warned them and they ignored
me, went in there and I warned my bakkie mate,
I said ‘you don’t go after them, we wait outside’.
They went a little bit deeper but we could still
see them, they put their nets in the water. Then
suddenly, the waves start to break and it turned
them upside down. Capsized the whole boat,
but from the head down, right over and we had
to rush back to save them. The point is the sea
warns you and you have to listen to that.
W: I wouldn’t say the sea is like a person but the
sea it will tell you ‘it’s my area, I’m in control
of it’ and we have to listen to that. There are so
many chances that the sea will show you.
JR: It communicates with you in a way.
W: Yes.
Further to this, in the conversation below, one sees how Jacques and
Ernest accord seals living in the bay with an intellect which goes beyond
merely collecting food. The seals in this example actually learn the best
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ways to get fish from fishermen. The seals directly affect fishers’ catch
efforts as well as the safety of their hands.
Jacques: The seals are really clever, the one seal,
we don’t know where he got his education but
you can put your net in the water and then you
put down your bait and without destroying your
net he will take out the bait.
Ernest: The seals aren’t stupid, in the past I’ve
caught mullets and you catch mullets with a net
so when they come into the net their heads get
stuck and they can’t go back so you can’t pull
them, you have to push them through the nets.
So the seals catch mullets from the nets, they
pull them out and they are well educated. If you
ght with a seal, hit him with rocks, disturb him,
then he will cause trouble for you and destroy
your net. But if you leave him he will just take
your bait.
Jacques: If the boats come in with catches of
snoek then you can come and see what the seals
are doing in the harbour. We have a way that we
wash the sh, we take it and hit the water with it.
Now the seals are clever, they won’t come for the
head or the middle part of the snoek, they will
come for your hand so that you have to let go.
And twice now, recently, there were seals who
bit shers.
Rather than maintaining a conceptual separation of culture and nature, or
human and non-human in the accounts above, Ernest and Jacques did
not separate themselves from ‘nature’ around them. Rather they spoke
of the sea and seals as knowing beings with which they interacted on an
almost equal level. Through their interactions and accounts, the fishers
produced particular versions of nature. In these versions, seals learned
from people by observing them carefully. For Willem, the sea worked
with him if he worked with it. Through their particular ways of knowing
and the interactions which resulted from these, the fishers’ ascribed
attributes of social intelligence beyond themselves and into the natural
world. In the context of an EAF and social-ecological research, such
ways of engaging and thinking provide potentially powerful means of
resolving theoretical and conceptual distinctions between the realms of
humans and non-humans. By acknowledging that fishers, seals and the
sea are engaged in relationships of mutual influence, a space is made
available in which it is possible to view members of social-ecological
systems as engaged in symmetrical relationships rather than hierarchies
of power.
Discussion
In the ethnographic examples provided in this paper, the fishers provide
conceptual interactive tools through which it is possible to rethink
conventionally accepted approaches to research and management which
rely on binary separations of humans from nature. Fishers hold valuable
insights which are particularly pertinent in an EAF-type approach and can
be valuable additions when brought into conversation with research and
management. Social research on South African fisheries suggests that
an approach that criminalises and disenfranchises those who fish for a
living (particularly small-scale commercial handline fishers) is ineffective
in the management of fisheries because communication is foreclosed,
with a resultant increase in poaching and related criminal activity.
1,2,11,43,44
We have argued that different ways of relating to others (be they human
or non-human) inform multiple ways of knowing the world. In turn, these
apparently different ways of knowing display moments of convergence
as well as divergence. All knowledge positions undertake deletions and
translations in order to tell their way of knowing the world. It is precisely
because of the deletions and translations that people must make in order
to be heard by their peers or other groups, that certain conversations are
often rendered difficult and daunting, and become completely untenable.
Within the existing fisheries paradigm, public consultations often become
battlegrounds.
1
The reasons for this are many and vary with context, but
at least part of the reason is that people come to them as stakeholders
of particular positions and viewpoints that are pre-defined and as such
feel compelled to carry their roles through in public for fear of losing
what influence, authority, legitimacy or respect these might have.
1,44,45
In the experience of this project, representing a combined 13 months
of field research, ethnographic methods offer a quieter conversational
space. This space allows for a mediation of both views that differ from
one another as well as those that go against mainstream research,
established positions or management objectives. Such a space moves
beyond treatments of knowledges as separate entities and acknowledges
both convergences and divergences between different ways of knowing.
In so doing, it is possible to pose questions and think about unexpected
connections across ‘the great divide’, set up when one contrasts the
knowledge of fishers with that of science. In the context of an impending
EAF in South Africa, where opening up dialogue is essential to conduct
effective research and management, how might fisheries researchers
involved in the humanities and social sciences facilitate this? After
all, fishers, fisheries managers and fisheries scientists (government
and academic alike) undertake ‘artful deletions’ whenever they speak
to one another. One possible avenue, we suggest, is evidenced in the
earlier discussion on subspecies of kob. It is important to note here that
we are not making a claim either way about the existence of a genetic
kob subspecies population in Stilbaai. However, we seek to explore
the possibility of collaboration further in line with Verran’s
10
work in
suggesting the use of alternative frameworks and exploring the situations
in which these may be more effective than classical scientific categories
in dealing with specific contextual issues. The question of kob genetics
and morphology, as discussed previously by Oom Koos and Oom Louis,
points to a possible research project in which fishers and scientists
might work with different identification systems in relation to studies of
population genetics.
Further to this, recent work has begun to tackle the thorny issue of
actually facilitating dialogue between different ways of knowing and
systems of classification.
10
Describing an interaction between an
Australian Yolngu Aboriginal elder and an environmental scientist, in
which the two discussed their alternative strategies for bush firing in
the Australian outback, Verran
10
describes what she calls a moment of
‘epistemic disconcertment’, an interaction which results in discord and
unease where the knowledge claims of experts come into contact in
what both feel is their ‘home turf’, revealing divergent ways of perceiving,
receiving and being in the world. In the example, collecting two sticks
from what are classified in the Linnaean system as two different tree
species, a senior Yolngu man suggests to the scientist that the two are in
fact the same thing, being in a relationship of grandparent and grandchild
rather than separate families. A moment of disconcertment arises as the
scientist, drawing on his knowledge of Linnaean taxonomy and plant
botany, tries to demonstrate that the two plants are in fact not related.
Eventually, the awkwardness of the situation is eased when the scientist
provides an allegory to explain away the disconcertment. However, warns
Verran
10
, the use of allegory as a ‘soothing balm’ risks cutting off the
possibility of what she refers to as ‘generative tensions’– the ability of a
situation of disconcertment to force invested parties to invent new ways of
working with each other and their knowledge. In this instance, translation
of one way of relating to and thinking about the ecology of an area into
another weakened the original efficacy. Instead what was necessary
was not translation but a means of working through these knowledge
positions and moments of disconcertment rather than explaining each
other away. The use of allegory explains away the position of others in
familiar terms – enacting a translation on their worldview without actually
resolving difference, thereby leaving imbalances in knowledge positions
unchanged.
10
In Verran’s
10
proposition, the tensions which arise from
moments of disconcertment are positive because they challenge people
to come to new understandings of one another’s knowledge. Where
allegory is used to explain away differences in perspective, it prevents
the different perspectives from finding a possible common ground from
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whence to open a productive dialogue. Verran’s
10
suggestion is to foster
unease with a series of epistemic questions which in turn could enable
participants to confront their differences as well as to come to a greater
understanding of their own positions. In the context of an EAF, in which a
multitude of disciplines, objectives and knowledges are brought together
in close working contact, Verran’s suggestions are of great significance.
If participants are to work meaningfully and respectfully with knowledge
and the often divergent perspectives that attend these, it is important
to work with difference generatively or else risk marginalising certain
positions by claiming them to be merely allegorical.
In the ethnographic interview presented at the start of this paper, Oom
Louis and Oom Koos speak of subspecies of Silver kob not recognised
by DAFF scientists or the Linnaean system. In the conversation, these
fishers initially speak in terms of common names recognised by the
Linnaean system. However, the picture begins to change quickly as the
conventional terminology and classifications reach their limits: speaking
initially in terms which resonate with an official scientific version of
kob, the fishers then speak from their own experiences in which they
have come to recognise a range of ‘different species’ or subspecies not
recognised by marine biologists. The means by which they recognise
and categorise these subspecies are markedly different from the means
scholarly taxonomists would employ within a Linnaean classification.
The subspecies are identified by a range of characteristics including long
tail and ‘funny’ fins; broad tail; thin, flat tail; small head and fat body;
rounded nose and protruding lower jaw, with the fishers agreeing on the
naturalness of these classifications to the extent that they are able to
finish each other’s descriptions.
Murray et al.
14
, writing on the migration and stock structure of cod
in the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (working with local fishers in
conjunction with scientists), found that a more nuanced map of cod
population structure and their movements was produced, yet neither
group was found to have a complete understanding of these prior to
the exercise. Conducting research with local fishers, Murray et al.
14
argue, presents the potential to augment scientific data with higher local
resolution, suggesting the prospect of identifying local fish populations.
In Gilbert Bay, Southern Labrador, Wroblewski
46
explains how scientists,
working with data supplied by local fishers, were able to conduct a
taxonomic study which revealed a genetically distinct population of cod
which warranted separate management. In light of Murray et al.’s and
Wroblewski’s findings, the Stilbaai example points not only to a possible
collaborative project but also to the existence of a potentially valuable
additional system of classification. Even if subspecies in the Linnaean
sense may not be identified (i.e. in contrast to the Gilbert Bay example),
a further worthwhile collaboration might explore the circumstances
in which it may be of advantage to use the fisher’s relationality and
classificatory system rather than the Linnaean one without carrying
out translations (i.e. using allegory) between these two relational
‘taxonomies’. This suggestion is in line with Verran’s example in which
the Yolngu classification of species and associated bush firing practices
resulted in a higher plant species diversity than was achieved through
conventional scientific firing practices.
Conclusion
In this paper, we have suggested that knowledge is always in a constant
state of mediation and translation. All people engage in ‘artful deletions’
for a number of reasons. On the one hand, the complexity and messiness
of knowledge is most often smoothed in the final description of a thing
in order to render the subject knowable and more accessible, whether it
be to fishers, researchers or managers. On the other hand, fishers, for
example, feel compelled to undertake a series of artful deletions when
dealing with researchers, managers and factory buyers in order to be
heard. Likewise, those interacting with fishers might feel compelled to
enact their own artful deletions in order to more effectively communicate
their intended message. In the retelling of knowledge, the interactions
and relationships (as seen in the kob multiple and ‘sea as actor
examples) are, out of necessity, filtered. The shift we have proposed
in our work is one which seeks to move beyond an identity politics of
knowledge, towards an approach in which knowledge is an open and
continual process of evaluating what is known.
One of the guiding principles of conflict mediation is to focus on underlying
interests rather than established positions. Fishers and scientists have a
shared interest in knowing and understanding the ecologies they work
in. Taking this view, how people know something becomes as important
as what is known. Understanding the former empowers researchers,
managers and fishers alike to enter into dialogue and collaboration on
a more equal footing. It is certainly a difficult and lengthy process and
there are many biases, assumptions and hierarchies which must be
challenged in order to take the work forward. Nevertheless, the relational
approach outlined in this paper is an essential first step if researchers
are to work realistically with social-ecological systems. The intention
is that work such as this engage fishers, scientists and managers in
collaborative dialogue. Before embarking on a new path it is necessary
to slow down and carefully unpack new concepts, allowing them to take
shape through feedback with all concerned and through careful testing.
The aim of this paper has not been to present a ‘new way forward’,
but rather to unpack an emerging approach to working with multiple
ways of knowing which might benefit future collaborative endeavours.
There is certainly a pressing need to address urgent concerns in
South Africa’s fisheries. However, it is our belief that taking the time
to understand the context and the continually evolving knowledges will
provide deeper understanding of positions and yield more appropriate
and implementable strategies.
Acknowledgements
We gratefully acknowledge a variety of funding sources for this project:
The SA Research Chair Initiative, funded by the Department of Science
and Technology (DST) and administered by the National Research
Foundation (NRF), provided bursary funding and research expenses
for Greg Duggan through the Research Chair in Marine Ecology and
Fisheries (Prof. Astrid Jarre), as well as funding for participation in the
SA Linefish Symposium (Greg Duggan, Jennifer Rogerson, Astrid Jarre).
The NRF Sea-Change project, through grant No. 442316 (Lesley Green),
provided bursary funding and research costs for Jennifer Rogerson.
Top-up bursaries were received from the Sea-Change grant (Greg
Duggan) and the UCT-funded project Marine Research in the Benguela
and Agulhas Systems for supporting Interdisciplinary Climate-Change
Science (MA-RE BASICS) (Jennifer Rogerson). MA-RE BASICS, the
Contested Ecologies project in UCT’s Sawyer Seminar series, funded by
the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, as well as UCT’s Africa Knowledges
Project in the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Capacity
(PERC), funded by the Carnegie Foundation, provided funding for
workshops and a seminar programme on knowledge studies which
contributed to the conceptualisation of the approach presented here. We
thank the participants of the 2012 Linefish Symposium for discussions
from which the emphasis in this paper arose. Four anonymous reviewers
are thanked for their valuable comments on an earlier version of
the manuscript.
Authors’ contributions
All ethnography presented in the work emerges from the master’s research
by G.L.D. and J.J.M.R. A.J. and L.J.F.G. co-supervised both degrees and
provided funding for the research from their respective grants.
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Research Article Different ways of knowing in fisheries research
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... This slow integration is explained in part because the scientific community has viewed fishers' local ecological knowledge (hereafter LEK) as epistemologically different from science-based ecological knowledge (hereafter SEK); so different that the two forms of knowledge may not be directly comparable (Berkes 1999, Neis et al. 1999, Johannes and Hviding 2000, Drew and Henne 2006. Nonetheless, researchers have argued that there are situations when fishers' LEK and SEK can be framed in similar terms for comparison (Neis et al. 1999, Murray et al. 2008, Davis and Ruddle 2010, Le Fur et al. 2011, Duggan et al. 2014. Some past examples include the use of fishers' LEK to measure population trends (Davis et al. 2004, Castello et al. 2009, Azurro et al. 2013, Kay et al. 2012, Bender et al. 2013, Beaudreau and Levin 2014, Katikiro 2014, Giglio et al. 2015, define fish habitat use and diet (Garc ıa-Quijano 2009, Boudreau and Worm 2010, Rasalato et al. 2010, de Magalhães et al. 2012, pinpoint the timing and location of reproduction (Johannes and Hviding 2000, Aswani and Lauer 2006, Fraser et al. 2006, Griffith et al. 2013, reconstruct historical baselines (Ainsworth et al. 2008, Ainsworth 2011, Giglio et al. 2015, and identify migration patterns (Silvano et al. 2006, Murray et al. 2008 Equally important to understanding fishing patterns that deplete fish stocks and how overfishing threatens our ability to sustain fisheries (Hughes 1994, Jorge 1997 is understanding the link between fishers' LEK and their perceptions on fisheries sustainability. ...
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We tested whether fishers’ local ecological knowledge (LEK) of two fish life-history parameters, size-at-maturity (SAM) at maximum body size (MS), was comparable to scientific estimates (SEK) of the same parameters, and whether LEK influenced fishers’ perceptions of sustainability. Local ecological knowledge was documented for 82 fishers from a small-scale fishery in Samaná Bay, Dominican Republic, whereas SEK was compiled from the scientific literature. Size-at-maturity estimates derived from LEK and SEK overlapped for most of the 15 commonly harvested species (10 of 15). In contrast, fishers’ maximum size estimates were usually lower than (8 species), or overlapped with (5 species) scientific estimates. Fishers’ size-based estimates of catch composition indicate greater potential for overfishing than estimates based on SEK. Fishers’ estimates of size-at-capture relative to size-at-maturity suggest routine inclusion of juveniles in the catch (9 of 15 species), and fishers’ estimates suggest that harvested fish are substantially smaller than maximum body size for most species (11 of 15 species). Scientific estimates also suggest that harvested fish are generally smaller than maximum body size (13 of 15), but suggest that the catch is dominated by adults for most species (9 of 15 species), and that juveniles are present in the catch for fewer species (6 of 15). Most Samaná fishers characterized the current state of their fishery as poor (73%) and as having changed for the worse over the past 20 years (60%). Fishers stated that concern about overfishing, catching small fish, and catching immature fish contributed to these perceptions, indicating a possible influence of catch size-composition on their perceptions. Future work should test this link more explicitly because we found no evidence that the minority of fishers with more positive perceptions of their fishery reported systematically different estimates of catch-size composition than those with the more negative majority view. Although fishers’ and scientific estimates of size-at-maturity and maximum size parameters sometimes differed, the fact that fishers make routine quantitative assessments of maturity and body size suggests potential for future collaborative monitoring efforts to generate estimates usable by scientists and meaningful to fishers. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... A closer look, however, reveals that some of its important fisheries are problematic with respect to governance issues, such as stakeholder representation (Hara et al. 2014;Norton 2014), transparent and defensible rights allocation process, for example, in small-scale fisheries (see, e.g. Norton 2014 and Gammage 2015 for overviews) and mistrust among stakeholders (Hara et al. 2014;Duggan et al. 2014;Ragaller 2012). Further, economic objectives override social objectives in the large fisheries (e.g. ...
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